Any action of the Legislature can be overturned by voter referendum — almost. The state Constitution explicitly exempts tax measures. So how can Amazon.com circulate petitions to overturn ABx1 28, the law that requires online retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases made by California consumers?
Simple: The so-called Amazon-tax law isn't a tax at all. It doesn't impose any new obligation on Californians, who have been required for decades to pay sales taxes on goods purchased from out-of-state sellers. The law that has driven Amazon to such fits governs solely whether the tax gets added to the bill at checkout or, instead, the buyer bears the full legal burden of calculating and remitting the tax. Amazon and other online retailers may claim that it's just too hard and too expensive for them to figure out the different sales taxes levied by each state, but of course what they really don't want to lose is the tax-cheat business model that gives them a bottom-line advantage over their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
The current dust-up has a definite upside: Many California consumers who previously knew nothing about their online sales tax liability can no longer plead ignorance. No thanks to any education campaign from the elected Board of Equalization, which is supposed to collect the so-called use taxes (sales taxes on purchases from out-of-state sellers), in-state buyers should now know that they owe the tax, whether or not the Amazons of the world obey the law and put it on their bills.